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No Euro hangover as PSG hit Lille for six

Paris Saint-Germain quickly got back on track after their Champions League loss to Barcelona as Ezequiel Lavezzi netted a hat-trick in a resounding 6-1 win over Lille at the Parc des Princes on Saturday.

No Euro hangover as PSG hit Lille for six
Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

With leading scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic suspended, Maxwell opened the scoring inside the first minute, Edinson Cavani netted twice and Argentine forward Lavezzi got the first hat-trick of his Ligue 1 career to hand the capital club their biggest league win since April 2012.

The win moved them three points clear of Lyon at the top of the table before OL face Reims on Sunday.

With Lille having won six of their previous seven matches to move into contention for European qualification, this looked likely to be PSG's toughest remaining fixture as they battle it out for the title with Lyon.

However, the northern club's normally watertight defence crumbled as they fell to their biggest top-flight defeat since a 6-1 hammering at Monaco in April 1985.

But for PSG it was the perfect response after what was ultimately a rather meek Champions League quarter-final loss at the hands of a far superior Barcelona side.

"After the disappointment of our elimination we needed to focus on the league again, that was the aim of our preparation over the last three days," said coach Laurent Blanc, who dismissed suggestions that his side had sent out a message to their title rivals.

"We have not sent anything at all. We are just worrying about ourselves and we need to pick up points.

"It was good to score so many goals and it would be good to carry on like this. We have respect for the other teams but our destiny is in our own hands."

Paris came flying out of the blocks and no Lille player had touched the ball before they fell behind with just 25 seconds on the clock.

Serge Aurier crossed low from the right and Maxwell's first-time shot evaded the grasp of Vincent Enyeama in goal.

The lead had been doubled with fewer than four minutes played, Javier Pastore finding Cavani, who beat Enyeama with a brilliant chip.

Cavani then set up Lavezzi to tap in the third and he struck again from a Blaise Matuidi assist just before the break.

It was not a perfect first half for Blanc though as he lost goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu and Aurier to injury.

Nevertheless, the outcome of the game had been put beyond doubt before Marko Basa headed in for the visitors, and the hosts then underlined their superiority by adding two more goals in the final 20 minutes.

First Cavani scored his 11th league goal of the season from the penalty spot after Lavezzi had been pushed over on the point of shooting by Sebastien Corchia, who was shown a red card.

And then Lavezzi held off two defenders and finished into the bottom-left corner to secure a superb win that is a big step towards a third consecutive league title as Paris bid to win an unprecedented domestic treble.

"Lavezzi is an example of how things can change," added Blanc of the former Napoli forward, who had previously netted just four league goals this season.

"He has often had a lot of chances but converted very few of them. Today he scores a hat-trick. That proves you need to believe in players and make sure they are in the best possible condition."

It was another high-scoring encounter following Marseille's spectacular collapse in losing 5-3 to Lorient on Friday at the Stade Velodrome.

A fourth consecutive defeat for Marcelo Bielsa's side was a huge blow to their hopes of qualifying for the Champions League, and a win for third placed Monaco at Lens on Sunday will put them five points clear of OM in the race for a podium finish.

Bordeaux needed a late Wahbi Khazri free-kick to draw 1-1 with Metz, while Rennes beat Nice 2-1 thanks to a last-minute Anders Konradsen goal and Guingamp triumphed 2-0 at Caen.

Toulouse drew 1-1 with Nantes and Francois Kamano's double gave Bastia a 2-1 win at Evian in a key game at the foot of the table

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FOOTBALL

OPINION: Mbappé’s title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project

After being the star of France's 2018 World Cup triumph, Kylian Mbappé has been the standout player for Paris Saint-Germain in a Ligue 1 title-winning campaign that has been slightly marred by the manner in which they limped over the line.

OPINION: Mbappé's title, but PSG need to breathe new life into Qatari project
Photos AFP

PSG finally wrapped up the title on Sunday after second-placed Lille failed to beat Toulouse, having not won any of their previous three games when the opportunity to confirm a sixth French crown in seven seasons was there.

The Qatari-owned club can still make it a domestic double, with the French Cup final to come against Rennes next weekend, yet this will not be remembered as a vintage year.

While Neymar once again went missing due to injury at the crucial point, Edinson Cavani has struggled with fitness too, and coach Thomas Tuchel has regularly lashed out at the lack of depth in his squad.

The 5-1 capitulation at Lille a week ago was the worst league result for PSG since Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011, and the first time they had let in five in a league game since 2000.

A record-breaking 14-match winning run with which they started the season now seems like a long time ago, the latest Champions League failure clouding Tuchel's first campaign in charge.

Mbappé, at least, has been a constant, revelling in his status as a World Cup winner and hardly ever being rested. He only turned 20 in December, but has now won three Ligue 1 titles in a row.

Mbappé has 36 goals in 40 games this season, with 30 in the league. And, frighteningly, his team-mate Daniel Alves told RMC recently that “he doesn't realise how good he is, he can go much further”.

He is also not used to losing, and may have upset some of his teammates with his assessment of last week's defeat at Lille. “We played like beginners,” he said.

Hollow ring

To be fair, they have usually been exceptional domestically. However, the problem is that as long as they keep failing in the Champions League, domestic success for a club backed by a Gulf state will continue to ring hollow.

The title has effectively been in the bag for some time, but their season has been winding down ever since their exit against Manchester United in the last 16.

That, combined with being knocked out in the League Cup quarter-finals, means Tuchel in his first season has actually done worse than Unai Emery, his unloved predecessor.

Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel has actually done worse than his predecessor, Unai Emery
However, according to sports daily L'Equipe, Tuchel has agreed to extend his contract to 2021. Thoughts have already turned to the future, with new signings needed at the Parc des Princes.

The costly Neymar experiment cannot be said to have succeeded until he stays fit for the games that matter, and there will always be speculation about his future.

“We have a contract, we're not even halfway through that contract,” Neymar's father pointed out to RMC Sport.

Time for a clear-out? 

Mbappé is the one man they really cannot afford to lose, but is it time for a clear-out elsewhere?

Some of the excitement of the early part of the decade has gone, replaced with a staleness. The days of Thiago Silva, Edinson Cavani and Marco Verratti are maybe ending.

Youri Djorkaeff, a World Cup winner for France and a PSG star in the 1990s, offers a frank assessment, suggesting real change is needed higher up.

“If you're not great in every compartment, from the bus driver to the girls who clean the shirts, you will go nowhere,” he told Ligue 1 Podcast, 'Le Beau Jeu'.

“Paris Saint-Germain, after many years without success, have to rebuild everything, restart from scratch, because the foundations are not good. You cannot expect to one day win the Champions League without these foundations.”

The Qatar project needs a breath of fresh air, and all eyes will be on president Nasser al-Khelaifi and sporting director Antero Henrique.

UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules remain a problem, though, with PSG said to have a hole of around 100 million euros and the need to present a balanced budget by the end of June. The next few months will be interesting.

By Andy Scott/AFP

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